Unit 3 Postdocs Deliver Strong “YES” strike mandate

Brad WalchukUncategorized

Postdoctoral fellows vote “yes” to ensure high-quality research jobs on campus

November 25, 2022

In a historic first, unionized postdoctoral fellows (PDFs) at McMaster University participated in a strike vote and sent a clear message to the university’s administration by voting 71% in favour of strike action if needed. PDFs have been at the bargaining table since May and are seeking a contract that provides wage increases in line with inflation, access to retirement security, and protections against overwork.

“Postdoctoral fellows perform cutting edge research that is vital to the university’s academic mission, but the employer’s current offer fails to recognize the value and importance of their work,” said Chris Fairweather, president of CUPE Local 3906, adding that the employer’s so-called best offer is “simply unacceptable.” After meeting with a provincially appointed conciliator, the employer tabled a proposed four-year agreement that failed to contain a yearly wage increases to PDFs, refused to address issues of workload, and continued to exclude PDFs from any form of retirement security.

“We are full-time, professional researchers with completed doctoral degrees,” stated Aly Bailey, a member of the union’s bargaining team and a Postdoctoral Fellow in Health, Aging & Society. “We are critical to McMaster’s research engine,” she added. “The university’s most recent offer is disappointing given our research output and ongoing scholarship that helps make this institution internationally recognized. It is terrible that some Postdocs make less than $40,000 a year. Many of us have families, or are starting families, and are struggling to makes ends meet.”
The union’s proposals – including wage increases – are reasonable and well within McMaster’s means, considering that the university reported $232 million in “excess revenues” in 2020-2021, and over $700 million in profit since 2016. Postdocs at other comparable universities have pension access and enjoy yearly wage increases, McMaster Postdocs deserve the same.

“With this strike vote, Postdocs are making a clear statement: our work matters, we matter, and we will not accept a contract that fails to recognize the growing challenges and realities we face in simply getting by. We have come from across the world to live and work in Hamilton, and we demand better of McMaster,” added Muhammad Nabeel, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Materials Science and Engineering and a member of the union’s bargaining team.

A positive strike vote does not mean that Postdocs are on strike, nor does it set a date for a strike, but it authorizes the bargaining team to call a strike in the event that talks break down at the bargaining table and after a provincial “no board” report has been issued.

No further bargaining dates have been scheduled with the employer, but we hope to return to the bargaining table soon. Further updates will be sent to your McMaster email accounts.

Quick Facts:
 Since 2016, McMaster University’s yearly consolidated surpluses have totalled over $730 million
 The average yearly rent in Hamilton has gone up $4,572 since 2019, the average postdoc salary has not kept up with these increases
 Doug Ford’s Bill 124 capped wage increases for Postdocs to 1% per year for 3 years starting in 2019. The university is not proposing ANY annual increases now, despite no legal prohibitions on doing so
 CUPE 3906, Unit 3 represents about 182 PDFs from the Faculties of Business, Engineering, Humanities, Science, Social Science, and other areas on campus

Unit 1 Bargaining Bulletin #6

presidentUncategorized

Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants (in lieu) at McMaster University will be on strike as of Monday, November 21st, in an effort to secure good jobs for student workers that provide adequate support during their studies. To ensure that teaching and research assistants can keep up with sky-high inflation after three-years of wage restraint, our key proposals include a wage increase in line with inflation, access to work, protection against tuition increases, and closing the pay gap between graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants.

Wages

Our wage proposal is for 9% in year one and 3% in years two and three for graduate TAs, and 20% in year one and 6% in years two and three for undergraduate TAs. This is a wage increase that we feel is needed to ensure we don’t fall further behind the rising cost of living, particularly considering that graduate TAs are provided with fewer than 10 hours per week of work, and many undergraduate TAs work as few as 2.5 hours per week.

However, as we have always communicated to the university, we are seeking improvements in other areas of the collective agreement that are far less costly, and we are open to agreeing to smaller pay increases provided we receive something else that will leave student workers with a stronger sense of financial security.

Access to Work

Graduate TAs only have guaranteed work for 4 years at the PhD level, while the average student takes far longer than that to finish. Master’s students are also limited in the availability of work, and for undergraduate TAs there is currently nothing that guarantees them ongoing work from one semester to the next. We have tabled proposals around a 5th year guaranteed TAship for PhD students and a priority posting system by which overtime graduate students without a guarantee would be considered first for work, followed by existing undergraduate TAs, and then new hires. Either of these options would be a workable basis for providing better job and financial security, and neither would be overly costly to the university.

Protection Against Tuition Increases

We have also tabled language that would pin a student worker’s rate of tuition to their first year. Should tuition go up while they are employed, they would receive some sort of reimbursement to offset the increased costs of tuition. This exists at other universities, and would provide TAs with a sense of financial security against the possibility of a tuition increase. 

Closing the Wage Gap

It is important that we start to close the pay gap of nearly $19 per hour between graduate and undergraduate TAs. These TAs perform the exact same work and deserve more equitable compensation. They also work far fewer hours per week than graduate TAs.

McMaster has pointed out that the living wage in Hamilton is $19/hour in an effort to paint our requests as unreasonable, but that same study concluded the living salary is $33,000/year. Teaching and Research Assistants earn nowhere near a living salary. Graduate TAs earn less than $19/hour once they’ve paid their tuition, and must continue to pay tuition in order to have guaranteed access to work. The minimum funding floor including scholarship money is just $13,500/year for graduate TAs to live off of. We are part-time workers, that is true, but for most of us, the university also has rules that dictate how much time we are allowed to work elsewhere, leaving many of us in an impossible situation.

Our proposals are fair, reasonable, exist at comparable universities, and are well within McMaster’s means. The university’s total consolidated surplus during just one year of the pandemic (2020-21) was $232 million. The university has also not been shy about handing out pay increases of 10% or 20% to senior administration when the rate of inflation was far lower and they were already earning far above the quoted living wage for the city.

We remain committed to a settlement and are prepared to return to the table at any time, provided McMaster is prepared to offer something on at least one of those three areas: higher wage increases, better job security, or tuition protection.

Unit 1 Bargaining Bulletin #5

presidentUncategorized

Despite our best efforts to bargain in good faith and secure a fair collective agreement that helps us get ahead rather than falling further behind, talks with the university have broken down and we are calling a strike. Faced with once-in-a-generation inflation, on the heels of many years without a meaningful pay increase, the university is refusing to consider reasonable proposals to improve our financial security, including real wage increases, extended guarantees, tuition reimbursements, and closing the pay gap between undergrad and graduate TAs. We are one-third of the workforce at McMaster, but our wages account for only 3.7% of the yearly payroll. There is absolutely no reason the university can’t offer us these improvements.

The university’s big eleventh-hour pitch to try to avoid a strike was a $40,000 fund for the union to administer to offer some relief to 5th year PhD students. No job security for overtime PhD and Master’s students. No job security for existing undergraduate TAs. No movement on wages. No movement on protections against tuition increases.

Starting Monday November 21st at 7:00am, picket lines will go up at entrances around the campus and we are strongly encouraging all TAs to begin withholding their labour. Any duties assigned to you in your role as a TA or RA-in-lieu should cease. The university has sent around information about a form you can complete if you want to keep working, and promising to continue paying you. There are a few important things you need to know, should you choose to do so:

  1. Doing so will undermine the efforts of your coworkers who are striking. It could prolong the strike, and it could leave the union with no choice but to accept less than we all deserve. Whatever deal we end up with will apply to all of us just the same.
  2. If you continue to work during the strike, you will be doing so without a collective agreement and without the union’s protection. Should you experience wage theft, harassment, discrimination, overwork, or any other violation of your rights as a worker, you will be on your own, because we will have no legal standing to advocate for you.

It is critical that every member signs up for picket duties ASAP. Picketing involves disrupting the flow of traffic and goods onto campus by marching in the entrances with signs. Under CUPE National, picket pay is $300/week for 20 hours of picket duties. There are a number of alternate duties available to members who cannot, for reasons of mobility, childcare, or other legitimate grounds, walk the picket line. If you have questions please check out our Strike FAQ or email strikecochairs@cupe3906.orgPlease sign up now at the picket duties sign up form below:

Please know that we have done everything within our power to convince the employer that we deserve a fair agreement. They did not come to the table prepared to bargain with us in a way that reflects the seriousness of the financial situation many of us are facing.

If you have already signed up for picket duties, thank you. Please watch your inbox for instructions on what to do come Monday morning.

United we bargain, divided we beg!

Unit 1 Bargaining Bulletin #4

presidentUncategorized

Your elected Unit 1 Bargaining Team (Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants in Lieu) has set a strike deadline of November 21st at 12:01am in our ongoing negotiations with McMaster University.

We met with the Employer on October 20th and 27th, 2022 with a provincially appointed conciliation officer following a record-breaking strike vote. Heartened by the fantastic strike vote turn-out and result, the team focused on key proposals in the areas that members identified as priorities (financial security, mental and physical well-being, and working conditions) in our talks with the Employer. The Employer responded with a proposal that includes moderate increases to benefits funding (including funding to establish a modest gender affirmation and reproductive health fund), and a small increase to wages over a 3-year contract (putting an extra 0.25% increase in graduate wages in the third year of a contract and an additional 0.75% to undergraduate wages over the course of a 3-year contract).

While the Team was pleased to see proposals in benefits and slight movement in wages, the Employer’s negotiators are still refusing to make meaningful movement on specific proposals that address our members’ chronic financial insecurity and stagnant funding (e.g., those that address fifth year funding, priority hiring for existing members, closing the gap between undergraduate and graduate pay, and tuition reimbursements).

Given the lack of progress on these key, fundamental issues, the Union’s bargaining team requested a “no-board” report from the Conciliation Officer. This request represents the next step required in the negotiation process to exert pressure on the university by triggering a 17-day count-down to a legal strike or lockout position. We’ve received the no board report today, setting a strike deadline of November 21st at 12:01am.

“It is our hope that the Employer realizes just how serious our members are about meaningfully addressing the profound affordability crisis student workers at McMaster are facing,” says CUPE 3906 President Chris Fairweather. “Those at the very top of the McMaster Administration, who are ultimately responsible for deciding everything about our time at McMaster, from how much tuition we pay to how much we have to live on as workers and students, must pay attention to the real possibility of a strike. They are woefully out-of-touch not only with the day-to-day struggles we face, but also those that the majority of students, workers, and community members face. We are already in crisis at McMaster—students see this in their exhausted TAs and peers who increasingly work multiple jobs on and off campus or go into tens of thousands of dollars in debt to make ends meet. It’s extremely disappointing and unfortunate, but perhaps the McMaster Administration will only understand the extent of this crisis by facing a picket line.”

The Parties have agreed to continue negotiations up to the strike deadline of November 21st at 12:01am. The next scheduled negotiation date is November 18th, 2022. Members will be provided instructions on what occurs during the strike if a strike is called.

McMaster TAs and RAs (in lieu) must prepare for the possibility of a strike. To join the Strike Committee, contact strikecochairs@cupe3906.org and attend our next strike committee meeting, which is happening November 10th, 2022, at 6:00pm on Zoom. You can find the links to register for all upcoming meetings here. To sign up for strike duties, please complete the picket duties sign-up form as soon as possible. For general information about what a strike would entail, please visit our Strike FAQ webpage.

McMaster Teaching and Research Assistants vote “yes” to ensure high-quality academic jobs on campus

Brad WalchukUnit 1 Bargaining

Teaching assistants (TAs) and research assistants in lieu (RAs) at McMaster University stand united in their fight to ensure high-quality academic jobs for over twenty-five hundred student academic workers.

In a historic strike vote held earlier this week, 90% of TAs and RAs voted “yes” to send a strong message to the university’s administration. TAs and RAs are demanding that McMaster table a fair and reasonable offer to protect students from tuition increases, address their concerns about the rising cost of living in Hamilton and a lack of work opportunities for graduate students, and to end inequitable wages between undergraduate and graduate TAs.

“Academic workers at McMaster are demanding better,” said Chris Fairweather, president of CUPE Local 3906. “The status quo of limited job security and inadequate wages is no longer sustainable for our members, especially when any wage increases can be clawed back by tuition hikes.” TAs and RAs at McMaster – nearly all of whom are students and pay tuition to McMaster – are facing once-in-a-generation inflation and raising house costs in Hamilton, yet wages and funding packages remain stagnant, inequitable, and unable to support student workers for the duration of their studies.

Your elected bargaining team is calling on the administration at McMaster to table a proposal that offers protection against future tuition increases, recognizes the job insecurity faced by graduate student-workers, and ends a significant wage discrepancy between undergraduate and graduate teaching.

“Not only are the proposals we have tabled around protections against tuition increases and extended work guarantees for graduate students reasonable and well within McMaster’s means, they also exist at many other comparable universities in Ontario” added Fairweather.

CUPE 3906 is seeking protections against future tuition increases in the form of a reimbursement, like those at the University of Ottawa and Carleton, and extended work guarantees for graduate students, similar to those that exist at the University of Toronto, York, and Carleton.

“With this strike vote, our members are overwhelmingly clear: we will not accept a contract that is more of the same and which fails to recognize the growing challenges and realities we face in simply getting by. We demand better of McMaster,” Fairweather explained.

A positive strike vote does not mean that TAs and RAs are on strike, nor does it set a date for a strike. It authorizes the bargaining team to call a strike in the event that talks break down at the bargaining table and after a provincial “no board” report has been issued. Further updates will be sent to your McMaster email accounts.

Quick Facts:

  • Since 2016, McMaster University’s yearly consolidated surpluses have totalled over $730 million
  • Despite representing roughly 1/3rd of McMaster’s total workforce, TA wages make-up just 3.7% of McMaster’s total payroll
  • While the average yearly rent in Hamilton has gone up $4,572 since 2019, the maximum yearly gross pay for graduate student TAs/RAs in lieu at McMaster has increased by only $575.87
  • Doug Ford’s Bill 124 capped wage increases for TAs/RAs to 1% per year for 3 years starting in 2019. Had these wages kept pace with inflation during that time, TAs/RAs in lieu would be earning $5/hour more than they are today
  • The wage gap between undergraduate and graduate TAs is nearly $19 per hour, despite both groups performing equivalent work
  • CUPE 3906, Unit 1 represents over 2500 TAs and RAs (in lieu) per year – nearly all of whom are students

For more information, please contact:

Chris Fairweather, President, CUPE 3906 – president@cupe3906.org

Mary Ellen Campbell, Chief Negotiator, CUPE 3906 – mary@cupe3906.org

Unit 1 Bargaining Bulletin #3

presidentUncategorized

Bargaining Bulletin #3

In an effort to ensure a fair and reasonable collective agreement for Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants in lieu, the CUPE 3906 Unit 1 Bargaining Team has announced that it will be holding a strike vote beginning on October 17th.

“Our proposals are necessary, reasonable, and within the university’s means,” said Chris Fairweather, CUPE 3906 President. “While strike action is a last resort, the university has been unwilling to make any meaningful movement on the priorities needed to ensure that graduate and undergraduate teaching and research assistants are in a position to succeed as students and workers,” he added.

In May 2022, faced with once-in-a-generation inflation in the cost of living and stagnant wages and funding packages, TAs and RAs ratified a package of bargaining priorities based on feedback contained in a survey of the membership and identified financial security and compensation, mental/physical health and wellness, and improved working conditions as their top priorities.

The university did not meet with the bargaining team until the last week of August, just one week before the Collective Agreement expired. During that week of bargaining, CUPE was informed that the university did not have a “mandate” from the Board of Governors, and so our Collective Agreement expired without us being able to negotiate wages, benefits, or any of our other substantive proposals. 

The bargaining team met with the university again three times between September 26 and October 3, 2022, and while the parties have agreed to some small improvements with respect to working conditions, major priorities of financial security and mental/physical health and wellness remain unaddressed. After having finally arrived with a ‘mandate,’ the university is offering far less than the current rate of inflation and is proposing to sustain the large pay gap between graduate and undergraduate TAs. “This is unacceptable for a group of workers who saw real wages decline over the past three years due to the province’s Bill 124. The university’s proposal will only push us further behind,” stated Fairweather.

While the university has agreed to include language around a new reproductive health fund, they are not offering any new money for benefits with which to pay for it, and is suggesting that in order to fund benefits increases the union will have to accept even lower pay increases. The university is unwilling to agree to tuition reimbursement language, leaving us vulnerable to having what little pay increases they are offering swallowed up by future tuition increases, and also unwilling to extend employment guarantee periods to reflect the actual average time it takes to complete our programs.

With this sizable gap between what the university is offering and what Teaching Assistants and Research-Assistants-in-lieu deserve, the elected Bargaining Team has made the difficult decision to call for a strike vote. More details are forthcoming, but the Bargaining Team is asking all members to vote yes and demonstrate their ongoing support for our bargaining priorities at the table.

“Not only are the things we’re asking for reasonable, they exist at other comparable universities in Ontario, and they are well within McMaster’s means to provide. The university is wealthy, and has only grown wealthier over the course of the pandemic” noted Fairweather. According to the university’s financial statements, McMaster brought in $232 million in “excess revenues” in 2020-2021 alone. Meanwhile, Teaching Assistants are falling further and further behind as the cost of basic necessities, like rent and groceries, skyrocket. A strong strike mandate will show the university that Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants (in lieu) are behind their union, and that they are willing to take job action, if necessary, to secure a fair collective agreement.

 

Bargaining Bulletin #2

presidentUncategorized

On September 26, Teaching Assistants will head back to the table with McMaster for the first time in a month. We expect to meet several times over the next two weeks, with Postdoctoral Fellows slated to return to the table on October 5 and 6. Expect more updates soon, but in the meantime, it’s worth recapping where we’re at so far.

What are we asking for?

What is the university’s response?

Wage increases that help TA’s and Postdocs get ahead, rather than falling further behind. 

No response.

Enhanced and expanded benefits, including reproductive health funds and leaves. 

No response.

Protections against future tuition increases in the form of a reimbursement, like they have at U of Ottawa and Carleton.

No response.

Equal pay for equal work for Undergraduate TA’s.

No response.

Expanded TA training program, offering more paid opportunities to further enhance teaching excellence.

No response.

Extended work guarantees for graduate students, like they have at U of Toronto, York, and Carleton.

No.

A modest, portable retirement savings program for Postdocs, like they have at Waterloo, TMU, and Ontario Tech U.

No. 35 years old on average is “too young” to be worried about that.”

McMaster’s Institutional Priorities and Strategic Framework lists “inclusive excellence,” “teaching and learning,” and “research and scholarship” among its top priorities. The university aspires to “be the go-to place for world-class researchers,” but the minimum salary for Postdoctoral Fellows is just $36,200/year. Every year, world-class researchers are actually being lost to other universities or to the private sector, while McMaster sits on its hands and refuses to talk about Postdoc compensation.

McMaster is also home to over 2,600 Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants-in-lieu, almost all of whom are graduate or undergraduate students. Our work is essential to the functioning of the university, and despite this, many of us struggle to cover basic needs like rent, groceries, and utilities. After we pay our tuition, which is a defacto condition of employment for most TAs, graduate TA’s are left earning roughly $16-19/hour, depending on our programs. Undergraduate TA’s earn approximately 40% less than graduate TA’s, for no good reason, aside from offering the university a source of discounted labour. There is also nothing to prevent future tuition increases from further eroding TA income on top of the damage already being done by once-in-a-generation inflation.

Everything that we’re asking for is about helping McMaster live up to its vision of “inclusive excellence” by making the university a better place to work and study. But we need your help. Every pay period that goes by without new Collective Agreements, essential academic workers at McMaster fall further and further behind the rising cost of living.

Please send a message of support to our bargaining teams. Share this update and your support for our priorities on social media with the hashtag #bettermac. We’re also calling on all members of the union to join the Bargaining Support Committee to organize and rally support behind our bargaining teams. If you haven’t done so yet, please sign the open letter calling on the university to Raise the Floor on graduate funding as well.

Our work is valuable. We deserve so much better than this.

Unit 2 Members Have Ratified a New Collective Agreement

presidentUncategorized

The votes have been tallied, and Unit 2 members have voted to ratify the CUPE 3906 Unit 2 Tentative Agreement (dated July 18, 2022). The new agreement will be in effect once the McMaster Board of Governors also ratifies the Tentative Agreement at its next meeting (October 27, 2022).

The Bargaining Team would like to extend its sincere appreciation for your support throughout these difficult negotiations. The unwillingness of the employer to even talk to the union about job security without the threat of a strike underscores the importance of solidarity as we continue to fight for a Better Mac.

Postdoctoral fellows vote “yes” to ensure high-quality research jobs on campus

Brad WalchukUncategorized

November 25, 2022

In a historic first, unionized postdoctoral fellows (PDFs) at McMaster University participated in a strike vote and sent a clear message to the university’s administration by voting 71% in favour of strike action if needed. PDFs have been at the bargaining table since May and are seeking a contract that provides wage increases in line with inflation, access to retirement security, and protections against overwork.

“Postdoctoral fellows perform cutting edge research that is vital to the university’s academic mission, but the employer’s current offer fails to recognize the value and importance of their work,” said Chris Fairweather, president of CUPE Local 3906, adding that the employer’s so-called best offer is “simply unacceptable.” After meeting with a provincially appointed conciliator, the employer tabled a proposed four-year agreement that failed to contain a yearly wage increases to PDFs, refused to address issues of workload, and continued to exclude PDFs from any form of retirement security.

“We are full-time, professional researchers with completed doctoral degrees,” stated Aly Bailey, a member of the union’s bargaining team and a Postdoctoral Fellow in Health, Aging & Society. “We are critical to McMaster’s research engine,” she added. “The university’s most recent offer is disappointing given our research output and ongoing scholarship that helps make this institution internationally recognized. It is terrible that some Postdocs make less than $40,000 a year. Many of us have families, or are starting families, and are struggling to makes ends meet.”

The union’s proposals – including wage increases – are reasonable and well within McMaster’s means, considering that the university reported $232 million in “excess revenues” in 2020-2021, and over $700 million in profit since 2016. Postdocs at other comparable universities have pension access and enjoy yearly wage increases, McMaster Postdocs deserve the same.

“With this strike vote, Postdocs are making a clear statement: our work matters, we matter, and we will not accept a contract that fails to recognize the growing challenges and realities we face in simply getting by. We have come from across the world to live and work in Hamilton, and we demand better of McMaster,” added Muhammad Nabeel, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Materials Science and Engineering and a member of the union’s bargaining team.

A positive strike vote does not mean that Postdocs are on strike, nor does it set a date for a strike, but it authorizes the bargaining team to call a strike in the event that talks break down at the bargaining table and after a provincial “no board” report has been issued.

No further bargaining dates have been scheduled with the employer, but we hope to return to the bargaining table soon. Further updates will be sent to your McMaster email accounts.

Quick Facts:

  • Since 2016, McMaster University’s yearly consolidated surpluses have totalled over $730 million
  • The average yearly rent in Hamilton has gone up $4,572 since 2019, the average postdoc salary has not kept up with these increases
  • Doug Ford’s Bill 124 capped wage increases for Postdocs to 1% per year for 3 years starting in 2019. The university is not proposing ANY annual increases now, despite no legal prohibitions on doing so
  • CUPE 3906, Unit 3 represents about 182 PDFs from the Faculties of Business, Engineering, Humanities, Science, Social Science, and other areas on campus

For more information, please contact:

Chris Fairweather, President, CUPE 3906 – president@cupe3906.org

Brad Walchuk, Chief Negotiator, CUPE 3906 – brad@cupe3906.org

Letter to McMaster Community Members

presidentUncategorized

Dear McMaster Community Members,

Despite our best efforts to bargain in good faith and secure a fair collective agreement that helps us get ahead rather than falling further behind, talks with the university have broken down and we are calling a strike. Faced with once-in-a-generation inflation, on the heels of several years without a meaningful pay increase, the university is refusing to consider reasonable proposals to improve our financial security, including real wage increases, extended guarantees, tuition reimbursements, and closing the pay gap between undergrad and graduate TAs. We are one-third of the workforce at McMaster, but our wages account for only 3.7% of the yearly payroll. There is absolutely no reason the university can’t offer us these improvements.

Starting Monday, November 21st at 7:00am, picket lines will go up at entrances around the campus and Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants-in-lieu will begin withholding our labour. We do not take this action lightly. We acknowledge that this will be disruptive to students, who have already experienced so much disruption over the past few years. But we are students, too. We are fighting to ensure that your Teaching Assistants now and for years to come are able to provide for themselves and their families, and to provide the very best support to other students as they can.

Please know that we have done everything within our power to convince the employer that we deserve a fair agreement. They did not come to the table prepared to bargain with us in a way that reflects the seriousness of the financial situation many of us are facing. They wasted the entire summer not meeting with us, and they only bothered to get permission to bargain wages from the Board of Governors in September, after our collective agreement had already expired. They have never taken this process seriously.

To those of you in the community, including many faculty members, who have spoken out in support of us: thank you. Know that we have seen each and every message and that we appreciate them all dearly. We hope this strike will be resolved quickly, but we are not willing to back down from our conviction that we deserve some semblance of financial security in the face of a cost of living crisis, especially when we work for and contribute to such a profoundly wealthy institution.

Sincerely,

The CUPE 3906 Unit 1 Bargaining Team

CUPE 3906 Strike Vote Information

Brad WalchukUncategorized

TODAY!!! Monday, October 17 at 4:00pm – HSC 1A5/Zoom

Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants (in lieu) will take a strike vote in our ongoing negotiations with the university. 

Register in advance for this meeting:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
 
The new Collective Agreement being negotiated will set our pay, benefits and rights for the entirety of its duration, which is usually for 3 years. While TAs and RAs are facing once-in-a-generation cost of living increases and an affordable housing crisis, our wages have been capped to a 1% annual increase for the last 3 years under Bill 124. This is the first time we can negotiate outside of that cap: unfortunately, it means that our wages have taken a hefty pay cut due to inflation alone. In raises alone, McMaster has offered is is offering far less than the rate of inflation as food prices and rent in Hamilton and the GTA skyrocket. In many departments, TAs depend on their TA pay to be able to afford basic necessities, like food and rent.
Just last year, McMaster had $232 million in excess revenues over expenses, $188m in more than what was projected for 2021. McMaster’s management can afford more, but it refuses to do so. The parties remain far apart on other issues as well, such as fifth year funding for PhDs, enhanced benefits, tuition assistance/reimbursements, and the large pay gap between graduate and undergraduate TAs.  A strong strike mandate will show the university that TAs are serious about our priorities at the table. On the other hand, if few of us vote “yes” during the strike vote, the employer will have no reason to change their current position. You can read more in our bargaining bulletins here: https://bettermac.ca/unit-1-tas-and-ras-in-lieu/bargaining-updates/.
 
All current TAs and RAs (in lieu) are entitled to vote, as are those who worked in Winter 2022 or Spring/Summer 2022 and those who have a “contract in-hand” to work later in the 2022-23 academic year.
 
As per our by-laws, voting will start after the Strike Vote SGMM and will continue until October 19 at 11:55pm. Voting will be conducted electronically online. You will receive a ballot from Election Runner (not CUPE) in your McMaster inbox shortly after the end of the meeting, though the exact time will vary. Check your spam/junk folder for an email from noreply@electionrunner.com, and contact brad@cupe3906.org if you have any issues. The SGMM will include a presentation about bargaining so far and an opportunity to discuss what’s at stake in the strike vote. We will also elect scrutineers, who are responsible for verifying the results of the vote.

Have Questions about the Strike Vote?

We know there are a lot of questions about the strike vote and the possibility of a strike. Answers to many questions are available in our Strike Vote FAQ document: https://bettermac.ca/unit-1-strike-vote-faq/